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  • Wednesday, March 23, 2005


    Lying by Graph

    Damn lies and statistics, indeed. OK, I understand that CNN has changed this graph since it was first published but it is still a monumental piece of misleading graphic art. This is what happens when you allow graphics designers to visualize statistics. I'm not saying designers are dumb, just that they aren't the best choice to do graphs. USA Today used to be the biggest offender on this front. Cute little stacks of pennies or cows to punch up the graphic, ignoring the actual information being conveyed. This is from a Media Matters story:

    According to the poll, conducted March 18-20, when asked if they "agree[d] with the court's decision to have the feeding tube removed," 62 percent of Democratic respondents agreed, compared to 54 percent of Republicans, and 54 percent of Independents. But these results were displayed along a very narrow scale of 10 percentage points, and thus appeared to show a large gap between Democrats and Republicans/Independents:

    Laid out in this manner, the graph suggests that the gap between the two groups is overwhelming, rather than only 8 percentage points, within the poll's margin of error of +/- 7 percentage points. Also, this presentation obscures the poll's finding that majorities of all the groups sampled approved of the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube. A more accurate presentation of the poll's findings would have looked like this:

    * UPDATE: CNN has updated its graphic after the posting of this item.

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